Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday's Wanderings: Looking Back...and Forward

The year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven is over, and I for one am so glad! It was not the best of years for me and my family, so I think 2012 can only be better.

I learned some things this past year, however, that are probably going to change the way I look at the future in terms of my writing. I received a lot of rejections last year, but the "good" part of that is that most of them were personal notes of rejection. I learned that for the most part, agents like my writing. They like my characters, they like my plots, they like the way I develop the story, how I arouse emotion from sympathy to anger in just the first few pages, how vividly I paint an imaginary picture. But the answer is still a 'no.' For a variety of reasons: just accepted one similar; not quite what I am looking for; don't have the "stomach" to go down the road of slavery right now; and the one I liked best: I loved it but didn't "fall in love" with it. And there were other reasons.

What does that tell me..or you? I think agents are looking for a SURE thing, and how can they be "sure" of that with a new author? All of the agents I queried were ones who were looking for new clients, at least according to blog interviews and Query Tracker. But it seems that new clients doesn't equal new authors, in many cases.

Publishing has changed drastically in the last couple of years, due to the bad economy and to the advent of ebook publishing. The "Big Six" publishers in New York are only going to publish those books that are going to bring in a lot of money, and possibly make the New York Times Best Seller list, and very few new authors are going to do that. Well, unless you're the next JK Rowlings or Stephanie Meyer, that is.  And most of us aren't, even if we'd like to think we are!

Consequently, agents have to deal with publishers who are being extremely choosey about what they publish, so agents also have to be extremely choosey. Most of them are no longer willing to take chances on new authors, unless they truly believe you have a blockbuster of a novel. The exception to this 'rule' is the few agents who are aiming for the smaller, less-well-known publishers, rather than the Big Six or  any of their imprints.

(Big Six: Hachette Book Group, formerly TimeWarner, many imprints including Little,Brown, and Co; HarperCollins, with 50 imprints; MacMillan Publishers, dozens of imprints including St.Martin Press, Tor, Farrar,Straus, & Giroux; Penguin Group, second largest trade publisher in the world; Random House, largest English-language trade publisher in the world; and Simon Schuster, with dozens of imprints.)

From what I've been reading on several published authors' blogs, the Big Six are looking for younger writers who are truly outstanding, who are writing series instead of independent novels, and with whom they can have a long-lasting relationship. So where does that leave the, er, not-so-younger writer? Are we all nothing more than chopped liver, in terms of our writing? According to the personal rejections I've been getting, I'm not exactly chopped liver, I'm a "brilliant writer" but I don't have the demographics the Big Six are looking for, so I'm not what the agents are looking for, either.

That was then, this is now. 2011 is over with, 2012 has just begun, and for me, that means changing my direction, changing my thoughts, and changing my career path. I'm a grandmother, and proud of it! And if I have to frame all of those "glowing, thanks but not thanks" personal rejections, and hang them up in my study to prove to myself that my writing is "brilliant," I will do so. But I'm not giving up, just changing things around a bit.

This year, I'm going after the small, independent publishers. NOT, repeat, NOT the vanity-type where you pay them to publish your book, but the smaller, less well-known publishers who do a lot, if not most, of ebook publishing. Why not? Ebooks are now being published from picture books to middle grade, young adult, and adult. Ebook publishing no longer has the stigma that it did when it first came out, and although you don't get an advance, your royalty percentage is quite a bit more than through traditional, print publishing.

You do have to do a lot more of the promotion yourself, but in today's economy, you also have to do much of it even with the Big Six. Websites, blogs, interviews, school visitis, smaller independent book store signings ( if you get into print), are all easy and inexpensive ways to promote your book.

Another thing I'm going to look into is self-publishing. Again, not the kind where you have to do all the work and pay someone else. But I've been reading about highly successful authors, including some who have made the NY Times Best Seller list, whose best-selling books are self-published. It can't be all that bad. At least, it's an option to look into.

Does that mean I'm going to stop querying agents? Not at all. But it does mean that I'm not taking days and days of doing research on them, it means I'm sending out queries to many at a time instead of only a select few, and it means I'm not going to be heartbroken over rejections, personal or otherwise.

And in the meantime, I'm going to be querying as many ebook and smaller, independent publishers as I can for the coming year. I'm looking forward with a smile to 2012. 2011, you're in the trash can!

Are you looking forward to what this new year will bring? What are your feelings about ebook publishing?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. Mom,

    I have an online writing buddy who is doing quite well with her self-published books. She's also just started with ebooks. Let me know if you want me to ask her if you can talk to her about it.

  2. Mikki, it's like looking into a mirror... Good luck with your new direction. I sure recommend it from personal experience!

    My biggest writing lesson from 2011 was the importance of a detailed writing calendar. I started mine in late October, and now map out every single writing and marketing task for every day. It's given me a new drive, calm, and productivity that I look forward to continuing all year long.

  3. Daughter o'mine, I'll call you later today!

    Anne, actually, I took a page from your book! I took to heart the answers you gave when I was asking you about the smaller publisher you've gone with, thought a lot about it, discussed it with my husband, and decided to go for it. Still searching for an agent, but that is definitely not my only goal for this year.

  4. Anne:

    What a great idea. It's a lot harder to ignore and procrastinate on your writing when you've got it staring you in the face. In writing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Mikki, there are a lot of great smaller presses out there. I say go for it. The industry is changing and getting into one of the Big Six is even harder than ever. And who knows. You might go with a small pub and do so well that your name becomes known. Big publishers might be more open to you then. It could happen. :)

  6. Mikki,

    I definitely think your new direction for 2012 sounds like a good one. However, you should still feel honored that you at least got "notes" on your rejections. I haven't gotten many of those at all.
    I couldnt decide if you were saying you were querying just agents and not queries publishers last year? From what I've heard and read, looking for an agent if you haven't been published at least once or better yet several times, is really a waste of time. It's almost harder to find an agent than a publisher. I think you going forward with small publishers sounds like your best bet for now.
    As far as self-publishers, I wasn't aware there were any of those around where you didn't have to pay your own costs? If you find one, let me know! I do know several people who have self-published though and they are very pleased with the outcome and sales. So goodluck for 2012!!

  7. Mikki,

    Chalet Press may be an option for you - they don't offer advances but they're not a self-publisher either - your manuscript has to be accepted.

    All the best. I'm still trudging through the traditional process :) Will let you know how it goes.

  8. Kelly, Allyn, and Miranda,
    Thanks so much for your thoughts, and ideas. I'm getting a lot of encouragement from my writer friends to try the smaller presses, like MuseItUp, and I really appreciate what all of you have said.

    For anyone interested, Tanglewood Press is also a smaller publisher that I'm going to try, if MuseItUp passes. Their website is:, and it's very interesting! Check them out.

    And Miranda, thanks for the idea about Chalet Press. I will definitely look at them.

  9. Though you are interested in self publishing, I think it is great that you will not give up on querying agents. You're getting hand written notes and they like your work. That means you have their attention. Good luck with which ever course works the best for you. Just keep writing.